Three years ago I began working on a class-turn-series-of-classes-turn-club-turn-community-programming-turn-full-blown-non-profit-organization that is known today as Artsy Mamas.
Today, I believe that I have reached the end of the road as leader of Artsy Mamas.
Artsy Mamas has been the biggest roller coaster adventure of my life. Through it I gained lifelong friends, learned tremendous things about myself, and had numerous newspaper articles written about me. The best thing that has happened to me because of Artsy Mamas is that I am now well networked in my community. Everywhere I go, I know someone. Or I know someone who knows someone. I believe that my efforts may have helped some people here and there but in general, Artsy Mamas gave me more than it ever gave anyone else.
Which wasn’t exactly my goal. A couple of years ago I was knee deep in planning a huge event called Mamapalooza Murfreesboro… an evening out for moms young and old. Drinks, dancing, music, shopping, prizes. With help from a few very valuable volunteers, I pulled it off and it went well. It was that evening when I decided that Artsy Mamas was full grown and I was ready to kick her out of the nest. Mama bird had other things to do. So as we waited for our official 501c3 status, I began to look for ways I could become hands-off yet still be involved. That had been my vision.
Then I got pregnant again.
And I felt bad. For months. Nearly two years actually. During this time in my life, there was no way that I could run an organization. I could barely get out of bed. And I had three children to care for.
Artsy Mamas became a burden. I was no longer interested in art or making art or writing or doing theater—none of the things that had motivated me to start this movement to begin with. I was back in new mom mode and I was ill, mentally and physically.
Most of my help had trickled away due to financial strains, moves out of state, divorce, or simply lack of interest. I didn’t have it in me to find new people to help me. And I certainly didn’t have it in me to fundraise, which is imperative when you are trying to run a non-profit organization. Artsy Mamas was a volunteer job. I didn’t get paid. And when my family was struggling financially, my husband could not justify taking time off from work so that I could follow these lofty and ridiculous dreams. It was over. And I knew it.
Occasionally, with the help of a couple of loyal volunteers, we’d try and breathe some life back into the old girl. But I think that the stars simply weren’t aligning and that God had other things in mind for me and that was why nothing I did and nothing I tried seemed to work. Or at least it didn’t seem to work easily. It was too much work and nearly impossible to pull it off because either I was holding a baby or I simply couldn’t show up for events because I didn’t have childcare. Only a crazy person spends massive amounts of time organizing happenings which she cannot actually attend but for which she is also not getting paid.
I always called Artsy Mamas my brainchild, and that was truly how I viewed her. She was like another baby. Unfortunately, for the first year, I spent way more time nurturing that baby than I did my two real babies. I had become a neglectful mother. In my attempt to prove that mothers could have it all—be moms and artists, still doing theater and music and painting and whatever else it was that they wanted to do, while taking care of kids—I had shown that, in my experience, they actually can’t. Or at least not in the capacity I had been preaching and hoping for.
If a mom wants to do some of these things, and still be the kind of mother God called her to be, she has to do them sporadically, during kids’ naps, in the wee hours of the morning before children get up. Or late at night after they go to bed. And if she has really little ones or a husband who works at night like I do, she’s going to have to do those things in her own home. That is if she can even get the baby to stop nursing long enough so that she can put him down and sneak away to create something. (I’m writing from personal experience here. Can you tell?) There is no time to be in productions or write full-length plays. Oh sure, I could make the time but who would suffer? Everyone else in this house, that’s who. And what would I have gained? A little notoriety maybe? I’ve found more recently that even better than the sound of a crowd applauding your efforts on a stage is the sound of a child saying, “You’re the best mommy in the whole world.” And I am still experiencing creative fulfillment by the comments I receive on that occasional blog post… even if it’s not quite the same thing as writing a full length play and then performing it with five of my closest mama friends.
We weren’t trying to conceive number three. As a matter of fact, he is proof that God is in control of that reproduction stuff. It has become pretty clear to me that God was paving the way for my true calling, the highest of all callings: to be an outstanding wife and mother. I fall short daily but at least I can look at myself in the mirror without hating what I see now. Because what I see is a woman who loves her children and her husband and has made them top priority in her life. I strive to fill my home with healthy wholesome foods, lovely music, peace, love, and happiness. If I was still sitting in front of my computer sending press releases and emails all day long, I no doubt would have sent my children to school and we wouldn’t have the close bond that we share today. I would likely be divorced, or well on my way. So it is with this realization that I believe God used this third baby to put distance between me and Artsy Mamas and therefore save my family. For this I am terribly thankful.
Does this mean I no longer believe in the mission of Artsy Mamas? Absolutely not! The original purpose behind the movement (to empower, educate, and encourage mothers through the arts) is one that still brings out passion in me. I still feel strongly that moms need to remain authentic and that they need to bring as much of themselves into their lives as mothers as they possibly can. I still think that taking time to pursue artistic endeavors with your children is wonderful and I look forward to doing more and more of that as my children grow and show interest in the arts.
That said, I think that Artsy Mamas has now become a neglected child. It needs someone to nurture it and bring it back to life. My vision for the organization all along was that it would belong to the community, not to me. I pray that the right people come along who can run this program and give it the attention it deserves. Artsy Mamas has a great potential to be something huge and important. But that is not so important to me anymore. What is important to me is that it continues to benefit the people of Murfreesboro. The ones who embraced it from the start.